Tillerson: North Korea ICBM test ‘represents a new escalation’ of threat to US
iStock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) — U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has confirmed North Korea’s claim that it launched an intercontinental ballistic missile.
“The United States strongly condemns North Korea’s launch of an intercontinental ballistic missile,” Tillerson said in a statement Tuesday. “Testing an ICBM represents a new escalation of the threat to the United States, our allies and partners, the region, and the world.”
He continued, “Global action is required to stop a global threat. Any country that hosts North Korean guest workers, provides any economic or military benefits, or fails to fully implement UN Security Council resolutions is aiding and abetting a dangerous regime. All nations should publicly demonstrate to North Korea that there are consequences to their pursuit of nuclear weapons.”
In his statement, Tillerson confirmed that the Trump administration sought a meeting with the United Nations Security Council, which a spokesperson for Nikki Haley, the U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, had told ABC News earlier in the day.
“We intend to bring North Korea’s provocative action before the UN Security Council and enact stronger measures to hold the DPRK accountable,” Tillerson said in a statement. “The United States seeks only the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula and the end of threatening actions by North Korea. As we, along with others, have made clear, we will never accept a nuclear-armed North Korea. The President and his national security team are continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our allies and partners.”
The United States Mission to the United Nations confirmed that the Security Council session will be held Wednesday at 3 p.m.
“A short time ago, Ambassador Nikki Haley and her counterparts from Japan and the Republic of Korea requested an emergency UN Security Council meeting to be held in the open chamber in response to North Korea’s intercontinental ballistic missile launch,” the Mission said in a statement Tuesday night.
North Korean leader Kim Jong-un said the test was a gift for the U.S., in honor of the Fourth of July, state news agency KCNA reported: “He, with a broad smile on his face, told officials, scientists and technicians that the U.S. would be displeased to witness the DPRK’s strategic option as it was given a ‘package of gifts’ on its ‘Independence Day.'”
The North has a history of conducting its weapons test on or around July 4.
An assessment of the launch is ongoing, a U.S. official said, adding that North Korea’s missile advancements help demonstrate how it can now fire its missiles on short notice.
According to a U.S. official, in recent months the U.S. military has updated its military options for North Korea. Particularly, the addition of scenarios and possible proportional U.S. reactions to North Korean provocations. The launch of the Hyunmoo II missiles is likely an example of the proportional responses updated in those options.
After initial reports on the North Korean launch, which President Donald Trump tweeted about, U.S. Pacific Command first described the missile as an intermediate range ballistic missile, not an ICBM.
According to the U.S. and South Korea, the missile was launched into a high trajectory of 1,730 miles in altitude and flew horizontally about 575 miles, into the Sea of Japan.
The missile emerged from an airfield in Kusong, a city in North Korea’s far northwestern corner, an area used for launches in the past. U.S. officials said Monday that they were anticipating a North Korean launch but were keeping an eye on a facility in the eastern part of the country.
A spokesman for Japan’s Cabinet said the missile landed inside Japan’s exclusive economic zone, which extends 200 miles from its shores.
In response to the launch, the U.S. Army and military personnel from South Korea conducted a missile exercise firing short-range missiles into the Sea of Japan, the U.S. Army said in a statement, “countering North Korea’s destabilizing and unlawful actions.”
A defense official said the U.S.-South Korean “show of force” involved two missiles: one ATACMS fired from the U.S. and one Hyunmoo II fired by the South Korean military.
The U.S. Army said in its statement, “The ROK-U.S. Alliance remains committed to peace and prosperity on the Korean Peninsula and throughout the Asia-Pacific. The U.S. commitment to the defense of the ROK in the face of threats is ironclad.”
Chief Pentagon spokesperson Dana White called North Korea’s launch “escalatory” and said the U.S. Army and South Korean military response was “a combined exercise to show our precision fire capability.”
“We remain prepared to defend ourselves and our allies and to use the full range of capabilities at our disposal against the growing threat from North Korea,” White said. “The United States seeks only the peaceful denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula. Our commitment to the defense of our allies, the Republic of Korea and Japan, in the face of these threats, remains ironclad.”
North Korea’s missile launch “continues to demonstrate that North Korea poses a threat to the United States and our allies,” White said, adding, “We are monitoring and continuing to assess the situation in close coordination with our regional allies and partners.”
Stephane Dujarric, spokesperson for United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, said in a statement that the Secretary-General “strongly condemns” North Korea’s missile launch, calling this “yet another brazen violation of Security Council resolutions and constitutes a dangerous escalation of the situation.”
“The DPRK [Democratic People’s Republic of Korea] leadership must cease further provocative actions and comply fully with its international obligations,” the statement said. “The Secretary-General underlines the importance of maintaining the unity of the international community in addressing this serious challenge.”
Members of the president’s national security team also spoke by phone Tuesday to discuss North Korea.
Trump took to Twitter on Monday, before the Pentagon issued an official statement on the matter, to respond to reports that North Korea conducted another missile test.
“North Korea has just launched another missile. Does this guy have anything better to do with his life?” he tweeted late Monday, presumably referring to Kim Jong-un. “Hard to believe that South Korea … and Japan will put up with this much longer. Perhaps China will put a heavy move on North Korea and end this nonsense once and for all.”
Haley wrote on Twitter Tuesday afternoon, “Spending my 4th in meetings all day. #ThanksNorthKorea”.
The launch was North Korea’s 10th ballistic missile test this year.
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